Richie Cole (musician)

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Richie Cole (born February 29, 1948) is an American jazz alto saxophonist, composer and arranger.

Early life[edit]

Cole was born in Trenton, New Jersey.[1]

Cole started playing alto saxophone when he was 10 years old, encouraged by his father who owned a jazz club in New Jersey. He is a graduate of Ewing High School, in Ewing Township, New Jersey.[2][3]

Influenced by Sonny Rollins and Charlie Parker, Cole’s talent and dedication won him a full scholarship from Downbeat Magazine to the Berklee School of Music in Boston.


In 1969 he joined drummer Buddy Rich's Big Band. And after stints with vibraphonist/pianist Lionel Hampton's Big Band and trumpeter Doc Severinsen's Big Band, Cole formed his own quintet and toured worldwide, doing a great deal to popularize bebop and his own “Alto Madness” style in the '70s and early '80s.

Cole has performed and recorded with vocalists Eddie Jefferson, Nancy Wilson, Tom Waits, The Manhattan Transfer group, and instrumentalists Bobby Enriquez, Freddie Hubbard, Sonny Stitt, Art Pepper, and Boots Randolph, among many others.

Cole has recorded over 50 albums and CDs, including his top hit album Hollywood Madness (1979 Muse Records) and his tribute album to Leonard Bernstein, Richie Cole Plays West Side Story (1997 Music Masters Jazz).

Cole was appointed to the Board of the National Jazz Service Organization and the Board for the National Endowment for the Arts where he served as chairman for one year. He is also a charter member of the International Association of Jazz Educators. In 2005 he was awarded the State of California Congressional Certificate of Lifetime Achievement in Jazz on behalf of the Temecula Jazz Society.

The Alto Madness Orchestra was developed by Cole in the '90s. According to Cole, "The idea of the Orchestra is the concept and sound of an eighteen-piece big band using only seven instruments, four of which are horns. Not only does this have the big band ensemble sound, it also allows us plenty of room for improvisation as if we were in a quartet setting."

Personal life[edit]

Cole currently resides and performs in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


As leader[edit]

Progressive Recording Corporation/PRC Records
  • 1975: Trenton Makes, The World Takes
Adelphi Records
  • 1976: Starburst – with Reuben Brown Trio
Muse Records
  • 1976: Battle of the Saxes, Volume 1 – with Eric Kloss
  • 1976: New York Afternoon (Alto Madness) – with Eddie Jefferson
  • 1977: Alto Madness – with Eddie Jefferson, Harold Mabern
  • 1978: Keeper Of The Flame – with Eddie Jefferson, Harold Mabern
  • 1979: Hollywood Madness – with Eddie Jefferson, The Manhattan Transfer
  • 1980: Side By Side [live] – with Phil Woods
  • 1981: Cool 'C' – recorded with a group led by pianist Himiko Kikuchi during Cole's first visit to Japan
  • 1981: Alive! At The Village Vanguard – features a quintet that includes guitarist Bruce Forman and pianist Bobby Enriquez
  • 1981: Some Things Speak For Themselves [live; rel. 1983] – features a quintet that includes guitarist Bruce Forman and pianist Smith Dobson
  • 1982: The 3 R's – with Red Rodney, Ricky Ford
Seven Seas/King [Japan] Records
  • 1981: Tokyo Madness [live] – features a quintet that includes guitarist Bruce Forman and pianist Smith Dobson
GNP Crescendo Records
  • 1982: The Wildman Meets The Madman – with Bobby Enriquez
Palo Alto Records
  • 1982: Return To Alto Acres – with Art Pepper
  • 1982: Alto Annie's Theme
  • 1982: Yakety Madness! – with Boots Randolph [rel. 1983]
  • 1985: Bossa Nova Eyes
Concord Records
  • 1986: Pure Imagination
Milestone Records
  • 1987: Popbop
  • 1987: Bossa International – with Hank Crawford [rel. 1989]
  • 1988: Signature
Heads Up Records
  • 1993: Profile
  • 1994: Kush: The Music Of Dizzy Gillespie [rel. 1996]
Music Masters Records
  • 1996: Richie Cole Plays West Side Story [rel. 1997]
Fresh Sound Records
  • 2003: A Tribute To Our Buddies [rel. 2004] – with The Alto Madness Orchestra, Patrick Knowles
Jazz Excursion Records
  • 1998: Trenton Style – with The Alto Madness Orchestra
  • 2005: Back On Top – with The Alto Madness Orchestra
  • 2006: A Piece Of Jazz History – Richie Cole and Art Pepper only played together once; for this recording date in 1982. Teamed up by producer-writer Herb Wong; this is a reissue of Return To Alto Acres.
  • 2006: Risë's Rose Garden [2CD] – with The Alto Madness Orchestra
  • 2007: Come Sunday: My Kind Of Religion [rec. 2000; originally released on Alto Madness Records]
  • 2007: The Man With The Horn [rec. 1981] – features a quintet that includes guitarist Bruce Forman and pianist Bobby Enriquez
  • 2008: Live At KUVO 2/11/08
  • 2008: Bebop Express – with The Alto Madness Orchestra
  • 2009: The KUVO Sessions, Volume 2 – includes "Tokyo Rose Sings The Rocky Mountain Blues"
Multisonic Records
  • 2010: Castle Bop [rel. 2011] – with Emil Viklicky
Akashic Records
  • 2014: Breakup Madness
  • 2015: Mile Hi Madness
Richie Cole Presents/RCP Records
  • 2015: Pittsburgh [rel. 2016]

Other CDs/reissues/compilations[edit]

  • Richie Cole Live [AKA Live At The Douglas Beach House 1978] (rel. 1995; reissued in 1998) – with guests: Eddie Jefferson, Bishop Norman Williams
  • Richie And Phil & Richie (= Side By Side, plus 6 tracks from 4 of Cole's solo albums) (1998)
  • Pure Madness (= Alto Madness and Hollywood Madness) [2CD] (1999)
  • Cool 'C'/Tokyo Madness [2LPs-on-1CD] (2001)
Import CDs from Japan
  • West Side Story (1996) Limited Edition Gold Disc
  • West Side Story (Remastered) (1999)
  • Hollywood Madness (1999) Limited Edition
  • Cool 'C'/Tokyo Madness [2LPs-on-1CD] (2001)
  • Live At The Douglas Beach House 1978 (2006)

Cole also appears on these CDs[edit]

  • The Many Faces Of Bird: The Music Of Charlie Parker (1990) – with Lee Konitz, Bobby McFerrin, James Moody, and Bud Shank
  • Jazz For A Day At The Beach (2003) – various artists compilation
  • Jazz For A Night On The Town (2003) – various artists compilation
  • Jazz For A Tropical Vacation [2CD] (2003) – various artists compilation
  • The Most Romantic Jazz Music In The Universe [2CD] (2004) – various artists compilation
  • More Of The Most Romantic Jazz Music In The Universe [2CD] (2004) – various artists compilation
  • Simply Jazz [4CD] (2004) – various artists compilation
  • Simply Jazz Greats [4CD] (2008) – various artists compilation

As sideman[edit]

With Greg Abate

  • Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (Candid, 1995)

With Les DeMerle

  • You're The Bop! A Jazz Portrait Of Cole Porter (Summit, 2001)

With Jim Holman

  • Explosion! (Delmark, 2012)

With Eddie Jefferson

  • Vocal Ease (32 Jazz, 1999; Savoy, 2003) – compilation

With Peter Lauffer

  • Keys To The Heart (Peter Lauffer Music/CD Baby, 2010)

With The Manhattan Transfer

  • Extensions (Atlantic, 1979)
  • Mecca For Moderns (Atlantic, 1981)
  • Vocalese (Atlantic, 1985) – dedicated to Eddie Jefferson

With Oliver Nelson

With Anita O'Day

  • Big Band At Carnegie Hall (Emily, 2009) – 1985 concert from Carnegie Hall

With Don Patterson

With Buddy Rich

  • Swingin' New Big Band/Keep The Customer Satisfied (Beat Goes On/BGO [UK] 1994)
  • The Best Of Buddy Rich: The Pacific Jazz Years (Blue Note, 1997) – compilation
  • The Buddy Rich Collection (United Artists [UK], 1977 [2LP]; CD reissue: BGO [UK] 1998) – compilation

With Janine Santana

  • Soft As Granite (Janine Santana Music/CD Baby, 2008)

With Sigmund Snopek III

  • Virginia Woolf (Gear Fab, 2000)

With Sonny Stitt

  • Just In Case You Forgot How Bad He Really Was [live; rec. 1981] (32 Jazz, 1998)

With Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet

  • Vocal Madness (House Kat/CD Baby, 2014)

With James Van Buren

  • Live At The Kasbah (Van Buren Records And Tapes/CD Baby, 2003)

With Patrice Villastrigo

  • Golden Orchid (Skinny Llama/CD Baby, 2010) – featuring Patrice Villastrigo- Vocals, Percussion, Arrangements; Michael Villastrigo- Vocals; Richie Cole- Alto Saxophone; Spot Barnett- Tenor Saxophone ("Clueless In Dallas"); Gabriel Hernandez- Piano, Keyboard; Gene Perla- Bass, MIDI, Percussion; Joel C. Williams- Keyboard ("Clueless In Dallas"); Ken Basman- Guitar; Tyler Mitchell- Bass; Bobby Kapp- Drums, Vocals, Harmonica; Oscar Laun- Bongos ("Clueless In Dallas") – note: this CD includes "Ode To Eddie" (a three-song medley of the Richie Cole compositions: "The Common Touch"/"Waltz For A Rainy Bebop Evening"/"Eddie Jefferson", two of which were never recorded before). The majority of this CD was recorded in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, after a concert tour of Mexico, then mixed and mastered at Gene Perla's studio in Easton, Pennsylvania.


  • From Village Vanguard [includes both the Johnny Griffin Quartet and the Richie Cole Group (his quintet) in two separate sets/performances; recorded 1981] (2004)
  • Eddie Jefferson In Concert Featuring Richie Cole: Live From The Jazz Showcase (2005)
  • Jazz Legends Live! – part 9 of 13 in this series [starring Dexter Gordon, Gary Burton, Billy Cobham, Ahmad Jamal, Carmen McRae, Richie Cole] (2005)


  1. ^ Provizer, Norman. "RICHIE COLE BRINGS SAX APPEAL TO VARTAN", Rocky Mountain News, April 4, 1996. Accessed March 25, 2012. "On his current CD, Kush: The Music of Dizzy Gillespie, alto saxophonist Richie Cole spends most of his time in the company of a large brass section.... Instead, the Trenton, N.J. native will be in a quartet setting for a live recording on the Vartan Jazz label."
  2. ^ Bailey, Marilynn E. "Cole Bebops Into Greatness", Evening Independent, December 2, 1978. Accessed March 25, 2012. "Cole says he was pleased when he learned he and Johneon had gone to the same high school — Ewing High — in Trenton."
  3. ^ Allmusic biography

External links[edit]